EVST 255: Environmental Politics and Law

Lecture 18

 - Property Rights and Public Lands Management


The lecture centers on public lands management and the effect of property rights on sustainable resource management. Property rights create a complex set of relationships that complicate effective environmental management. Popular conceptions of wilderness also make it difficult to manage public lands sustainably, since people view wilderness as a place of freedom, without regulation. Managing property rights and people’s concept of right to wilderness are the central issues facing natural resource managers and public lands managers. As a result, it is important to consider external forces, such as climate change, that influence one’s ability to exercise property rights.

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Environmental Politics and Law

EVST 255 - Lecture 18 - Property Rights and Public Lands Management

Chapter 1. The Question of Authority [00:00:00]

Professor John Wargo: Okay everybody. Let’s start in. I wanted to continue talking about property rights and the environment, and also to talk more about public lands and natural resource management problems. And I wanted to pick up on some of the questions that were raised on Tuesday with respect to the property regime that was created by the State of New York in the Adirondack Park. And part of the problem with encouraging people to behave in accordance with law is their perception of legitimacy of the purpose of the law. How consistent are their values with the values that are embedded in law as a mission statement?

So what factors can you imagine would influence your perception of the legitimacy of a new regulation? One thing might be the way that you might have been allowed to participate or were excluded from the decision making process to set up a new rule to begin with. Another might be resistance, annoyance or a perception of immorality that some other group or individual is imposing their values on you.

So one way to think about the history of the Adirondack Park is that prior to 1973, the local governments really had authority to control land use. After the passage of the law, the next day, all of a sudden, they did not have that authority anymore, and the rights of private landowners were radically reduced. So they went from a condition of being rather free to develop their land as they pleased to one where they really had to understand the technical nature of law, as well as where they were on this map that had the force of law. What zone did they fall within?

And the argument is also, the perception of legitimacy, is also curiously tied to science. And what’s the relationship then between science and law? So that if this law was designed in a way to prevent damage from being incurred by new development, then how certain are these experts sitting inside the government agency that the damage is likely to occur? What is the likelihood? Are they thinking about it formally in terms of probabilities of damages and magnitudes of distribution of damages? How are they thinking about the need to bring evidence, data, and strong science to questions about damage that supposedly justify these new restrictions on their liberty? And what would a population that is low in income, relatively low in educational attainment compared to other parts of New York, what’s their capacity to challenge these new regulations? I mean, do they have the ability or the money to hire ecologists or soil scientists or atmospheric scientists, water quality experts, to challenge the government’s claim that if they build the way they want to that damage is going to occur?

Also, the idea of compensation, we’ll talk more about that, especially next week when we think about climate change in the coastal zone and what that means for all the property owners and the trillions of dollars in property value in the coastal zone. So that under what kinds of conditions do land owners, can they expect compensation for loss in property value that’s associated with these new laws and regulations?

And I want to also mention the work of Max Weber. Max Weber was a social scientist in the early part of the twentieth century, latter part of the nineteenth century, and he wrote about the idea of authority. And I mentioned on Tuesday, and I want to reinforce this idea that property is a form of authority. It basically is a social relationship among those who are given rights and those are obliged to follow those rights, to not invade those rights. In a way, a right is a kind of a sphere of liberty. And what happened in the Adirondacks is that this sphere of liberty was reduced, and it was reduced largely based on the claim of the government and environmental experts that damage was occurring from new development and that it should be stopped.

Now, when you think about the sources of legitimacy and law, if you go back into political and social theory, you’ll find really three dominant sources that are commonly mentioned. You know, one is the authority of the state to pass law, their sovereign authority, the state meaning any level of government. Another would be charisma, the authority that is commanded by a charismatic leader, perhaps a religious leader. And the third, that I find to be most relevant to this discussion today, is the idea of tradition. So that the idea that there’s been a traditional pattern of behavior that has been acceptable in a society. We’ve always been allowed to sell off five acres a year. Or we’ve been able to develop when we wanted to. Now you’re telling us that we can’t do that. So possession is often thought of as being nine-tenths of the law, I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase. Well, this idea that tradition and custom really underlie the sense of legitimacy is really quite important. So when people have rights taken away, they appeal to their customary pattern of behavior and their traditional rights.

You might also think about theories in politics about the origin of property. How is property derived? What’s its source? Well, John Locke argued that one source was God. God gave humans the right to expropriate resources from the land. Another is labor. And you probably have heard about Locke’s labor theory. So that if you invest your labor in improving land, then you are justified in claiming ownership to the fruits of that improvement. Another is inheritance. And Rousseau wrote extensively about the unfairness of inheritance laws and argued that inheritance, allowing the next generation to take the property from the previous one, that inheritance really is the fundamental origin of inequality in society.

Another is scarcity. So you can imagine yourself being alone on an island, as Robinson Crusoe was. So that there’s really no need for definition of property rights. Basically, there may have been conditions of scarcity, but there was no need to set up rules about who could get access to the scarce resources. So that there were other origins as well, including regulation. I think I’m becoming fascinated by the relationship between the act of regulation and the creation of new property rights. So you might think about what we all now are concerned about relative to climate change as being stalled out because we can’t agree on a regulation to cap the amount of carbon that would be allowed to be emitted into the atmosphere. So once that cap is established, that’s going to set the stage for the evolution of markets and trading schemes among groups around the world. So that property rights are often created by regulation in ways that are not generally perceived.

Another idea is that when government regulates and creates permits or demands that you come and you get a license, whether it’s a driver’s license or a license to use a new pesticide, whatever it is, if you’re required to get a permit, then that permit automatically has value, and developers will often buy land and then try to get approval to develop that land with no anticipation that they are going to actually carry through the development. But they’re going to sell that right. They’re going to sell the land along with the permit, so that they will basically accrue the increase in property value that’s associated with a new permit. And we saw in the atomic weapons testing area, and also related to private trade secrecy that secrecy creates property rights. So that it creates great value in the secret and there is often a black market in the trade of secrets.

So there are a variety of different kinds of property. You’re most familiar with the idea of private property and public property. But there’s also an idea in the literature about the commons. So that there are these areas of the environment or the universe that might be thought of as commons, where the property rights are really not well defined. And Garrett Hardin wrote a piece in 1968 called The Tragedy of the Commons. If you haven’t read it, I commend it to you. And it was a piece that argued that if you have common land with undefined rights to it, then people are going to try to take advantage of that land. And he used the example of a pasture in Great Britain where everybody wanted to graze their sheep on the pasture. Well, that’s fine until you get a critical mass of sheep on the pasture and all of a sudden you lose the capacity of the landscape to regenerate the grasses. Eventually, as more and more people come and graze their sheep, then the resource is going to be degraded and lost. And he was using that as an argument to justify regulation or a new form of control over who would have access to the common lands.

Chapter 2. Adirondack Pie: Public and Private [00:09:58]

We also think about public lands, I think, in a very simplistic way. And the rest of this lecture is going to focus on public lands and also the very, very different ways that rights can be allocated to public lands and the implications of that for sustainable resource management. And also the fact that as you look out across the landscape or you think about a nation or any territory, you’re going to have a pretty complex hybrid among these different forms of private property. And as somebody who might think of themselves as pursuing a career to manage environmental quality, I’m going to make an argument that you have very little capacity to manage an environmental problem unless you understand with great clarity the relationships that are created by these hybrid property systems. So once you understand the property regime in an area, you have a much higher capacity to manage it.

And especially next week, we’ll be talking more about the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, “Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” That presented an opportunity for courts through the twentieth century to the present to debate where the threshold is. What’s an acceptable limit on government authority to take private property? And when do they cross that threshold and therefore have to compensate the private landowner for taking away those rights? So what’s justifiable public use? This has been heavily debated in the courts. What government appropriation becomes a taking? When has land been rendered valueless? And should government’s regulation of private property be restricted?

So let’s kind of drop some of these ideas down onto the Adirondack Park. And I mentioned that it’s a six million acre tract of land. And we could have used a different park or a different area — we could have used Yellowstone. I’ll use a couple of examples in a few moments about Yellowstone. But in this area, you have six million acres of land about roughly fifty percent of it is privately owned. And the other fifty percent is publically owned and was, as I described on Tuesday, the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. So that it was Forest Preserve land that the Constitution of New York protects against any sort of timber harvesting, any sort of structural development unless that development is necessary to protect that land on the part of the State of New York. And this land has been classified under the statute that was adopted in 1973, the Adirondack Park Agency Statute, into a variety of different categories, including wilderness in the orange at the top, so about eighteen percent of the area, twenty percent of the area now has been designated as wilderness. Using a standard that is more rigorous than the federal wilderness designation standard, which requires only 5,000 acres for a new wilderness area to be created, there are nearly twenty separate wilderness areas in the Adirondacks right now. And the minimum size requirement to create them is 10,000 acres, so it’s double the federal standard in the total area that’s required.

They also have primitive areas. Primitive areas are like wilderness except that they might have certain facilities on the interior, perhaps roadways, perhaps fire towers, perhaps ranger stations, maybe some electric lines. And these primitive areas constitute a rather small percent. Another area is an experimental area that I’ll show you a slide of in a moment called a canoe area. And then about twenty-two point four percent of this public land, twenty-two point four percent of three million acres is classified as wild forest. So just think about this for a moment. This is the largest tract of intact forest in the eastern United States. It’s extremely rich in biological diversity. And it has had this century-long, longer than a century, system of control that is embedded in the Constitution of the State of New York and then further refined by this Adirondack Park Agency Statute into these different categories that allowed very different and specific kinds of uses.

Now, think about the definition of wilderness for just a moment. This is contained in the Wilderness Act of 1964. “A wilderness in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Well, this is a very interesting definition. It implies that the human presence or any human influence in this area is not tolerable. So that the Adirondacks, again with roughly a million and a quarter acres of designated wilderness offers many, many opportunities to seek solitude and get off on your own and test your physical and personal skills. But what’s quite interesting about it is that people within these designated areas are really drawn to a very small percentage of the area. People are drawn to the mountain peaks. The one reason why this mountain peak is bald is because people have hiked to the summit so often and the soils on the summits of peaks throughout New England are very shallow. So they’re very vulnerable. If the vegetation that this young man is about to jump on, if that vegetation is lost, the soil that it sits on will be lost, and it will erode down to bedrock, and thereby, it will never have opportunity to support additional vegetation. Kind of interesting, I’ll show you a clear cut in a western forest in just a moment.

Now I want you to also think about goals that people have for going into wilderness in different areas. And I just was looking at the cost of taking a trip and climbing Mt. Everest in Nepal. And for a single climber, it’s $25,000, for two people, it’s 40,000, and for seven people it’s $70,000. It was kind of interesting that the governments in different parts of the world are thinking about the right to climb and the value of the right to climb. At the same time they’re thinking about the costs that the government might incur if something goes wrong on those trips and they have to fund a rescue effort. By the way, Mt. Everest is about 29,000 feet in elevation, but Denali in Alaska is about 20,000 feet in elevation. So if you’re willing to give up that last 9,000 feet, you can go to the top of Denali for only $200. By the way, there are also many parts of the world where climbing parties are required to post a bond, a bond that would cover the total cost of an expedition to go in and rescue them in the case that something goes wrong.

Now in the Adirondacks, another way to think about wilderness, or my view of wilderness was shifted dramatically. And just as an aside, when I was working in the Adirondack Park when I was younger, my responsibility was to manage the policy for these wilderness lands. So that I faced constant tension and argument and debate about what user group should be allowed access into which areas. And if a new wilderness area was being designated, people would fight to keep the roads open, to keep the ranger cabins open, to basically maintain these traditional or customary patterns of use.

So one thing that I was struck by was this tower that sits on the top of Whiteface Mountain. White Face is the site of the Olympic training downhill facilities. And it’s also a national weather station that started to collect data during the 1970s and early 1980s that demonstrated that we were experiencing significant changes in the atmosphere. We were experiencing increases in sulfur and sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides that were producing sulfuric and nitric acids. And these acids were having an effect on a forest in the Adirondacks and shifting the biological diversity, particularly at high elevations, in ways that really were not anticipated.

Why high elevations and not low elevations? Well, it turns out that nobody had really thought about the contribution of fog and clouds that cluster around mountain peaks as creating kind of an intense and chronic exposure to the plants or animals that live in those areas. So that the red spruce decline in the Adirondacks is now related to this. The red spruce become susceptible to a variety of different kinds of insects in response to their exposure to increased acidity.

Chapter 3. Popular Conception and the Paradox of Wilderness [00:19:12]

A paradox of wilderness and thinking about how to manage it is that we tend to think about it as nature and the wild, but it really is a social construction, and there’s a very strong association with liberty. And the paradox is that if you’re managing a wilderness area, then you have to think carefully about what intensity of human use it could sustain and still maintain its character. And many people, and I am included, think that when I go into a wild area, I’m not really interested in signing up at a ranger station and getting a permit go into a wilderness and being told where I can camp and where I can’t camp. That kind of defeats the purpose, in my mind, of what wildness is.

So what’s the origin of that worry? Well, it’s basically the association of wildness with personal freedom. But obviously, as more and more people want to climb Denali or Mt. Everest or go in to the high peaks of the Adirondacks, it raises the question of carrying capacity. What’s an appropriate limit? So the Adirondack Park Agency faced this question with respect to many different ecosystems that it had the responsibility under this law to manage. There are some 2,000 different islands on more than 1,000 lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks. And these tend to be pretty small, a couple acres in size. They also tend to be basically just granitic bedrock that has very shallow soils so that new development on these islands was quite highly restricted. And islands are extremely desirable from a developer’s prospective, and also from the perspective of recreationists. So that if you were canoeing down this lake in the Adirondacks and you saw one of these islands, you probably would want to canoe over to one and explore it or camp on it. And the state has built campsites on these islands.

So there are always questions about how much development and what kind can it sustain. How much recreational intensity can it sustain without damage? In this case, one of the key questions would be sewage disposal, as I was mentioning with the Camp Sagamore slide back on Tuesday. So the FOOT [Freshmen Outdoor Orientation Trips] group here, when I was working with FOOT as an advisor some years ago, the FOOT crew went up to Adirondacks and I helped them lay out trails through the Adirondacks that seemed like they were suitable. But it was quite curious, because the park became much more concerned about loss of soil on the peaks and the routes and they decided that one approach was going to be to limit the size of the parties. I can’t remember the size. Some of you probably went on FOOT, anybody in the room? What’s the party size on FOOT?

Student: Each group?

Professor John Wargo: Yes.

Student: About ten.

Professor John Wargo: About ten. Well, this party size has been now restricted to eight in the Adirondacks, which basically meant if FOOT was going to keep using the area that it would have to reduce its party size. So that there were kind of interesting questions about cost efficiency and the program effectiveness related to party size and many logistical questions, so that they decided to back out and to move to other sites. So this idea that for any wilderness area, you would have both a kind of physical, biological idea of what its carrying capacity might be.

But there is also very interesting literature on the psychology of wilderness that has been pioneered by the Forest Service about what people expect. What do people want? Do they want to see people when they go back into remote areas? And most people would presume that the answer would be no. But then if you look at the pattern of wilderness use and national park use in our country and pretty much around the world, what you see is that wilderness is a playground for social cohesion in a way. I mean, families go back, friends go back into remote areas. So that very few people go into very remote areas alone. I find that to be kind of interesting. So that it becomes an outdoor opportunity for socialization.

Another kind of right that you might not think about is this right to use motor vehicles and the right of access. And if you allow float plane operators in the national park or a wilderness area, you are creating a variety of management headaches. Now, float planes are not allowed in wilderness areas. And when we decided we were going to close off a large number of lakes to motor vehicle access, either by car or use of boats or jet skis or access by aircraft, you can imagine the howls that went up. Because people had gone on to the public land as they have in many remote parts of the U.S. including in large areas of Alaska. And they have built these camps on public land. And they claim that they’ve been using this camp for the past couple of decades, that their daddy used that camp and that they really have a right to continue access and continue use.

Well, the strength of the conflict is really driven by what options they’ve got. And luckily in the Adirondacks, remember you’ve got this wilderness category but you’ve got these other categories as well, where motor vehicles are allowed. And they would have similar opportunities to fly into other lakes. So that the politics was managed basically because of the existence of alternative sites. Still, those people that had gone back to their camps and invested in building camps, and some of these camps were actually quite nice. They had stoves, they had propane gas stoves, they had heaters, they had refrigerators. So that these were more than modest little campsites.

The evolution of small, motorized vehicles has also created a very significant management headache. So that whether or not it’s a jet ski or an ATV, the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Nature Conservancy, anybody who manages a large tract of land in the United States today is faced with worrying and trying to figure out how to manage access by these vehicles. They’re fast, they’re light, they can basically zip around and escape rangers. So that the amount of damage these can cause is really quite interesting. And many of the users are also interested in hunting. And the ATVs provide basically a vehicular method to pull game out of remote areas. This shot of snowmobiles in west Yellowstone is also interesting to me. West Yellowstone, during the wintertime in periods of peak usage by snowmobiles, where they have conventions of thousands of snowmobiles in west Yellowstone, the particulate and ozone air quality is often worse than it is in New York City or it is in Los Angeles. So that there has been an improvement in the emissions from these smaller engines. But still, they are significantly less efficient than our motor vehicle engines, such as cars.

I also wanted to mention that the Adirondacks has a bunch of scientific experiments. And one of the values of wilderness is to provide an environment where scientific experiments can take place. And the idea that the ecology and the chemistry of Adirondack ecosystems is being transformed by our coal burning behavior in the Midwestern part of the United States, so that the emissions from the Midwest sweep up the Ohio Valley, they sweep into Pennsylvania and New York State, and that’s really one of the predominate sources of the acid aerosols here. And now these lakes are basically barren of native strains of trout. And it’s primarily because they’re highly dependent upon an acidity level not getting above, or the pH not getting below a certain level.

In this case, a variety of different experiments have been attempted, including liming the lakes. When I was there, we would fix buckets, these really large buckets of lime. And helicopters would pick up the buckets and drop the lime over the lakes in an attempt to buffer the acidity and make it more suitable for the native strains of trout. Eventually, this became so cumbersome and they realized it would cost way too much to apply this broadly across different lakes and ponds. That instead, they thought about genetic modification of fish to increase their tolerance. So that there are now a variety of different species of trout that have been genetically engineered to make them more tolerant. So that when I mentioned earlier that my perception of what wilderness is was transformed by the atmospheric testing that took place on the top of White Face Mountain, this is what I meant.

Also, if you go back to some of the old growth timber in the park, timber that’s been there for at least say fifty or sixty years, and if you did a core, so in other words if you took a screw and you cored into the tree and you pulled out a core of wood all the way from the center of the tree, you could test back in time and have a chemical replication of what was in the air during different years. So one of the interesting things that you could find is the period between 1945 and 1963, which was the atomic weapons testing era, you would find the radionuclides in some species of timber that are of that age up there. So that in some way, they become a chronicle of past atmospheric quality.

Chapter 4. Conflicting Values: The Permit Process [00:29:19]

The Olympic training facility in the Adirondacks also presented many different kinds of property rights questions. This is the downhill ski facility, on top of which is the weather station. And this has long been the site of national and international ski racing competitions. And there was a very curious debate about this, because this is on Adirondack Forest Preserve land, and this facility was not allowed to be built until the Legislature passed on two successive occasions an amendment to the New York State Constitution. It’s quite interesting. So that no development, remember, could be built on Forest Preserve Lands unless there was a Constitutional amendment that required those two successive actions on the part of the Legislature. So they did this, but they also constrained the trail width to eighty feet.

Well, the International Olympic Committee said, “We can’t have a downhill ski race on a trail that’s only eighty feet in width. Our racers are likely to go speeds of eighty, ninety, a hundred miles an hour in the steepest areas. We’ve got to do something about that. We want to cut swaths in the landscape that are — ” In one case, they wanted to cut one that was about a hundred yards in width in the argument of safety. Well, the eventual solution was “No, you can’t cut the trails up to that level, because that would be a violation of the Constitution. But instead, you can install netting on the sides of the trails so that if the skiers go out of control, they’ll become entangled in the nets and they won’t hit the trees.” Kind of a very interesting debate between the environmentalists on the one hand and those that are promoting the value of the Olympics and the international camaraderie and good spirits that it generates and those concerned about the health and safety of the ski racers.

Another facility that I had the opportunity to manage the permit issuance for was the ski jump facility. I don’t know, are any of you ski jumpers? Probably not here. But when I taught at Dartmouth, I had a number of ski jumpers in my classes. And these facilities are — it’s a ninety-meter ski jump, meaning that if you take off from the end, the maximum flight distance, safe flight distance, is roughly ninety meters. And then the seventy-meter jump is next to it. And these were highly contested because they are the tallest structures now between Albany, New York, and Montreal. And they lie immediately adjacent to the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

So the question posed to the Park Agency was: What kind of effect would these towers have on the wilderness character of the High Peaks region? And the Olympic organizing committee loved the idea. They thought that these towers would become symbolic of Lake Placid and the Adirondacks being a winter sports capital and training site for the nation. But the environmentalists threatened to sue. They argued that this should not be allowed, that it is a clear intrusion into the wilderness character of the area. Eventually, the State of New York decided that these towers should be built, rather obviously, and that despite the requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act that demands that whenever federal funds are being expended that alternative sites have to be explored.

So that in this case that meant, well, could you find an alternative site where you didn’t have to build a 350-foot tower? And the answer was yes. Several alternatives existed that would even be lower in cost. And here’s an example from Europe of how many European communities such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck and the jumps in Sweden and Norway, they’re built into the hillside. So basically the problem is, it’s an engineering problem of sorts. You know that you have a very specific profile that is necessary in the jump design and you also have a specific profile in the landing hill that is required. It has to be precise, otherwise the jumpers are in danger. Also, they need to point north. Because if the sun comes down and beats on the track, it can change the consistency of the snow on the in run and make it unfair for say a jumper that’s going later in the day. They also have to point in a direction that is opposite of prevailing winds, because when a jumper goes off the jump, you don’t want them blowing around. So that they have very specific site design criteria. However, when one was found in Lake Placid, the National Environmental Policy Act demanded that that site be considered. And it was eventually rejected by the State of New York, which resulted in the building of that tower.

Now one additional example of an intrusion into wilderness that was being proposed was the Mt. Van Hoevenberg cross-country ski run. And this is now a terrific run. And they have fifty kilometer races that are held in the Olympics. And when this was proposed, people thought, well these trails really don’t need to be anything perhaps wider than this table on the top of the podium here. And it turned out that they had to be quite a bit wider. They needed motorized vehicles that could move through and they could plough the snow up the way that a snowcat would at a ski area and that set a track behind them for the racers to follow. So the question became well, should we allow motorized access in wilderness areas to facilitate the development of this facility? And the answer was no. The government, the State of New York decided that instead, there was an adjacent tract of land that could easily be used and they would even have to use less land area and cut down fewer trees if they would use bridges the way that many of the European communities that have these facilities have done that cross the trails so that a wooden bridge crosses the trail so that you don’t have interference as the race progresses.

Wilderness often creates additional debates about the kind of interior management that should occur. Should you have facilities on the interior such as a ranger station? Should a ranger live on the interior? Or should the rangers be roving through the area? Very interesting questions related to emergency response time. And the access by helicopter obviously reduces that response time. And the advent of wireless communications makes it much easier to get injured people out of these areas. But every year, several people will die in the Adirondacks in the middle of the winter. It’s famous for its storms where they start out at say thirty-seven degrees and it’s raining. And then by maybe eight or ten hours later, the temperature drops to ten below zero. So people first get frozen — they first get cold and then they become hypothermic. So that response time is really an important issue. Within the Adirondacks, they decided to remove the ranger cabins from the interior, and instead hire more rangers that would have more requirements for patrolling the interior area. Kind of an interesting tradeoff between response time and the wilderness character of the area.

Also really interesting debates about how to manage fire in wild lands. And these vary agency to agency. So the Forest Service has a very different policy toward managing fires than the National Park Service has had. And this was very apparent in the enormous Yellowstone National Park fires that burned tens of thousands of acres. So imagine the National Park Service lying next to U.S. Forest Service land, and the Park Service has a no-burn policy. Let nature take its course, lightning strikes, the fire starts, and we’re not going to suppress it. So what that meant to the Forest Service was that their timber leases were quite vulnerable and the timber companies were claiming they had private property rights to those timber and the government had an obligation to ensure that it fought forest fires to the best of their ability to protect their rights. So very interesting conflicts over attitudes about how to manage wilderness, how to manage nature in its wilder form. And once you permit a commodity such as a timber right or a hunting right or a mineral extraction right, then in a way, government becomes obligated to ensure continued access to the corporation to get those rights out of the public domain.

Chapter 5. Land Management: Conflicts over Access to Resources [00:38:18]

I’d like you to think about a couple of other ideas about property rights. And we’re almost running out of time, and I’m going to give you just this one example here of development in the coastal zone. This is a tract of land that lies between Los Angeles and San Diego on the Pacific. And here you see basically a planned unit development area where you have gated communities in the hills overlooking the Pacific, and they basically ran out of land. So you can imagine if you’ve got a town and you lay a grid over it that is one-acre zoning in the entire town, eventually, you’re going to have one house on every one of those acres. And that is then thought of as the concept of build out, a town is at its build out.

So if that is the case, then what are you going to do? I mean, I suppose you could allow people, through a variance to a zoning ordinance, to build up, to build higher structures. But in this case, they granted the developer the right to build a marina. Now, a marina, what’s a marina? Well this is some marina. This marina has hundreds and hundreds of berths. And these boats are not minor boats. And you can think about this one community and think about the process. The developer goes to the State of California because the California Coastal Commission has jurisdiction. It goes to the town of Dana Point. It eventually has to go to the Coast Guard and to a variety of other federal agencies to get permits to develop this.

 But once they do that, it creates an enormously profitable business. Not only do these people have to pay slip fees, but they have to pay fees for having their sewage pumped out of their boats. The town put up recreational opportunities that the users will pay for. And the tax revenues to the community are in the millions of dollars per year because the community is able to tax the value of the boat. Some of these boats are forty, fifty, seventy feet in length. So that the average estimate of real estate value, the boats are always changing depending upon who buys a lease to the berths. But about $250,000,000 in increased real estate value was created out of what was formerly public land, common land owned and managed by the State of California.

So I’m going to leave you just with a thought that managing land is all about managing property rights and conflicts over access to scarce and valuable resources. And the Adirondacks provides I think one pretty interesting example of that because of the complexity of land classifications that were created. I tend to think of the Adirondacks as having dramatically shifted my perception of the potential for us on earth any longer to experience wildness. My idea of wildness is not what it was when I worked there. I had no understanding of the chemical dimension of the Adirondacks and how humans have changed the chemistry of the park.

That also raises a very interesting question about climate change. So that Melinda Smith, a professor in ecology and evolutionary biology, gave a very interesting lecture yesterday about the influence of increasing temperature and changes in moisture on the future of grasslands. And she argued that well, three percent of the world’s grasslands are now in protected area status, only three percent. However, changes in the humidity, changes in the temperature are causing reductions in productivity and changes in biological diversity that were never imagined when these legal regimes, such as the Adirondack Park Agency, were created. Now in the Adirondacks, you’ve got also changes in temperature and you’ve got changes in biological diversity. And what that means is that the approach to managing these property rights has been insufficient to manage the ecological change that it’s now experiencing. So it’s dramatically shifting my perception of what the future of a park and protected area should be as ecological systems and habitats are literally migrating through these different parks and protected areas.

So what this means really is that to tackle, if we had the objective of managing biological diversity in parks that we really need to think more closely about its link to climate change. So that a regulatory regime that manages climate is really essentially for long-term effective management of biological diversity. So, that’s it for today. Have a great weekend.

[end of transcript]

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